83% of Graduates Anxious About Next Career Steps


Last month, I was delighted to take part in the Government's 'Get Into Teaching' campaign, designed to encourage those leaving education to consider a career in teaching.

As part of the campaign, research was carried out to assess how final year university students and recent graduates were feeling about making decisions concerning their future careers, and what factors were influencing their decisions.

Of the 2,057 final year university students and recent graduates surveyed:

  • Four out of five (83%) feel anxious about making the 'right' decision when it comes to what their future career should be.
  • The majority (80%) agree that they’ll know they’ve found the right career path when it combines their passion for a topic and the opportunity to make an impact.
  • Almost three quarters (73%) feel they ought to future-proof their career prospects by searching in an established or growing sector where their subject knowledge and skills are in demand.
  • A similar amount (72%) agree that, given the number of graduate career options that exist, at times they have felt overwhelmed and unable to make a definitive decision when it comes to their future career path.
  • Three in five (60%) take into account how they think other people will react to their career decision.
  • When asked what factors influence their thinking the most, over two fifths (45%) say choosing a career that will allow them a sense of pride in what they do, whilst a similar amount (44%) want a stable salary / financial security.

I can't say the findings of the research were all that surprising to me. Many of the graduates and early career changers I coach are quite anxious about making the 'right' decision when it comes to their careers. They don't want to choose the wrong thing, which seems to equate to the fear of finding out they don't enjoy it later down the line.

They also consider heavily what others will think of their career choices. They want their parents to be proud, they want their friends to think it sounds cool, and they want their career to carry with it a degree of societal recognition and status. In early adulthood, we often seek a real sense of belonging, so it makes sense that young adults will be concerned about the reactions of others when choosing a career - we want to be accepted, recognised, and validated as we venture into our early careers.

I also think that young people are becoming more and more anxious about what others think of them. Fuelled by social media, our life choices are heavily scrutinised and publicly judged way more than they used to be. It therefore makes sense to me to hear that so many of those surveyed take into account the reactions of others when considering their future career paths.

It’s also clear from these findings that young adults today want to be proud of what they do for a living, and that they want their career to have a positive impact. I also hear this a lot from clients - they want their work to have meaning and to make a real difference. It’s because of these factors that some of the clients I talk to consider teaching (as well as a number of other impactful, meaningful, and socially responsible careers) as a possible profession to pursue, hence my involvement in the campaign - it can provide the opportunity to combine passion with pride, as well as purpose - a powerful, and much-desired, combination in a career.

It was a pleasure to take part in the campaign. I got to speak to a number of radio stations across the nation about the research findings, and my experiences of coaching graduates. It's a shame to hear just so many are anxious about their career decisions, but I'm proud to be part of a profession that offers support for those going through this period of their life and all the challenges it can bring.

I remember it well - graduating and having so many options to consider. It's hard having to choose what you think you'll want to do for the rest of your life. Which, of course, is one of the main unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves at that age - what we do after university certainly doesn't have to be what we do forever. As long as it's in an area of predominate interest, and you think you'd enjoy that first step, that's a good place to start, I think. The rest often emerges in time. It's also worth considering who you're doing it for. If you're making choices based on making your parents proud, impressing your friends, or salary alone, then you might find those decisions lead you down a path that feels inauthentic in time.

If you're a recent graduate, and you'd like to discuss how the coaching programme I offer could help you identify what you really want from your career, and how to make it happen, please do get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.